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Make Money Mondays With Sean V. Bradley - "Twitter Jacking"

You will be shocked to find out that you can convert your competition's clients and prospects to yours by "Twitter Jacking". Thats right you can use Twitter to sell cars! 

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There's an exciting thing that can happen when you first start advertising on social media. The organic measures of exposure are quickly fading away, so when you get that first boost of exposure as a result of spending very little money, it can become addicting.

It's a trap. Overexposing at the wrong time to the wrong people can prevent you from being able to reach the right people in the future, particularly on Facebook. As I've mentioned many times, social advertising is very different from other forms of online advertising as the performance of the content being promoted has a dramatic and often instant impact on subsequent posts.

In other words, done wrong, you can do real damage.

The story of the tortoise and the hare is one that few want to hear. They don't want their advertising to resemble that of a slow tortoise in any way, shape, or form. However, the reality is that it's the best way to reach the most people in the long term as well as in the short term. Look at these statistics:

As with nearly every attempt at social media, there's a quick spike. Just about everyone who is not using advertising in their social media is having a hard time truly reaching anyone, particularly at the local level. Even with a strategy grounded in consistency, there is still the initial spike and it's almost always a noticeable difference.

The problem is that with many of the pages I check out that are using social media advertising, the view is much different. It's high peaks and low valleys. The overall reach early on is great. The problem is that the spikes are damaging. There's no consistent growth of active fans. There's no steady engagement being built up. It's happening all at once.

There are plenty of reasons why slow and steady after the initial burst is preferable to spikes and low points, but the biggest reason is that the overall number of people reached is much, much higher when it's done with a sound steady strategy. It's not easy to see because Facebook doesn't offer the proper tracking and because it's somewhat counter-intuitive, but once you really dive in and see what's happening it makes sense.

You see, the 10,000 people reached one week are not the same 10,000 people reached the following week. Sure, there are plenty of people (if you're doing it right) who see most of the things you post, but a consistent strategy aimed at spreading out the reach is much more effective at reaching the masses. Facebook insights don't portray this properly which is why you see so many who throw money at Facebook to see the big spikes. It feels like you're reaching more people that way, but you're not.

The only time there should be spikes is when there's something extremely important to get exposed. These should be rare. Sure, there's always something really important going on - the big sale, a new model rolling out, incentives, etc. - but it has to be social gold as well a being important. Otherwise, standard promotion will do the trick.

Unfortunately, it's very easy based on the fallacies in Facebook Insights for a company to demonstrate their effectiveness using inflated numbers. The biggest problem is that it cannot be sustained that way. Social media advertising is the easiest thing to do. It's also the easiest thing to do wrong.

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Article originally appeared on Soshable.

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As Facebook continues its unofficial quest to make the platform pay to play and with Twitter quickly following in those footsteps, many are looking towards advertising as the most important component, but they would be wrong. Others who sell their products would say that strategy can overcome the need to play, but they would be incorrect as well. It’s the third component that plays in both of the other two realms that really makes up about half of the equation.

Social media marketing for the automotive industry is 2 parts content, 1 part strategy, and 1 part spend. There was a time not too long ago that it was even more prominent, but modern social media requires businesses to apply all three in order to have a winning combination.

Content is the beginning. You have to have a nice array of content to post on your social profiles, particularly on Facebook. Twitter has a never-ending flow of content bombarding you every day in the form of the blogs you read, the news that presents itself, random thoughts that make for good Tweets, and random pictures that you take or that you find on the internet. Pinterest is quickly becoming more about search than anything else and Google+ is failing in its mission to be anything more than a search engine tool. This leaves Facebook as the lone component that requires full effort in order to find the appropriate content.

Strategy must be applied once the content is gathered. Some have the time and resources to accumulate a strong pool of content and can plan out much of what they’ll post on Facebook ahead of time. Others must take what they can find in the limited time they have to find it every day or every week. Either way, a proper strategy that plays to both the algorithm as well as the expectations of the fans must be integrated in order to deliver the right content at the right time.

Advertising is the third component. It’s the trap. It’s the aspect of Facebook that seems so easy in the beginning but that can be butchered very quickly to the point that you can no longer effectively advertise. Here’s what happens…

You start off and see the “Boost Post” button on something that you just put up on the page. You click it and see that for $15, you can expose your content to thousands of people. Heck, you can probably reach a couple thousand people by spending $5 if your page is doing pretty well already. You give it a shot and, voila! Your post gets more exposure, more reach, and more engagement than anything you’ve posted in the past. You do the math and you start boosting other posts. It’s all good stuff.

One day, you see that your boosting numbers look different. Rather than spending $5 and reaching 1200-1700 people like you did a couple days before, you see that the same money now only buys you 500-950 views. You might do it or you might even bump it up to $10 for this post. Either way, you hope that it’s just a temporary drop because you’ve been telling everyone how awesome you are at Facebook.

A couple of weeks later, your heart sinks when you see something like the example below. This is a Facebook page that has 1700 fans that we took over recently. They didn’t do anything wrong, really. They simply didn’t go through the steps and monitor their EdgeRank properly to prevent this type of dip from happening. In short, Facebook and this page’s fans have spoken. They were exposed to the wrong content at the wrong times and it ate away at their potential to use Facebook ads.

Thankfully, it can be fixed. It requires content. Great content. Facebook advertising is different from other types of advertising in that the sentiment towards the ads has a tremendous effect on the potential reach and ROI on future ads. If you advertise something that gets a lot of negative feedback, it will cost more to advertise your next few posts. The ads are tied in directly with the organic algorithm. With Google, you can optimize your way to the top of you can buy your way to the top. On Facebook, there’s no distinction between advertised posts and organic posts. Just because you pay doesn’t mean that your posts will be seen.

With the right strategy, properly managed advertising, and a ton of great content, you can master the art and science of social advertising. With any single portion missing, there’s a good chance that you can do more harm than good.

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Originally posted on automotivesocialmedia.com.

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Local Facts

If there’s one thing that gets under my skin the most about local businesses on social media, it’s that they rarely take advantage of one of the most important types of posts: local facts. It’s a low-hanging fruit that is completely missed by most.

It starts with having a local following and fan base, of course, but if your page is in what we like to call stage 2, then local facts are an easy way to get people talking to your and about you. It’s one of the most important tools in our arsenal that we use to promote clients but it doesn’t take a team of social media specialists to make it happen. You can do it very easily on your own.

In the example above, you see this Long Beach Chevy dealer has a post up about an interesting fact for the Long Beach area. Someone saw it in their news feed, recognized it, then tagged their friend in a comment. The friend saw the post as a result and commented as well. He recognized the house in this case… it was his neighbor!

The individual interaction has an exceptional algorithmic effect on Facebook. Whenever anyone likes, comments, or shares a post, it has an opportunity to be seen by that person’s friends. When something like this happens where two friends are having an exchange on the post, the chances of their individual friends seeing the post increases, of course, but the chances of their shared friends seeing it shoot up exponentially. Once one of those friends like the post, now it’s very likely that their entire shared circle of friends will see the post.

This is a great thing because chances are very high that the majority of the people within this circle are within the market area of the dealership. That’s one of the ways the Facebook algorithm works. It’s one of the easiest ways to get posts like this to be liked by 30 local people and seen by over 1000 locals.

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The Easiest Way to Waste Money on Facebook

Looking at the screenshot above of the landing page that Facebook took me to when I clicked on Dodge’s advertisement in the sidebar, one might believe everything was in order. It’s not exceptionally attractive and definitely offers way too many options to be a strong landing page from a social media campaign, but at least it’s pretty compelling. The clear call to action – get a quote. There’s a payment offer for those who want such things. There’s a financing term offer for those who like 0%. There’s a cash back offer for those who want to pay less.

One might ask, “What’s the problem?”

Poor landing page layout aside, there was one big problem with the landing page. It’s about a Dodge Avenger. The ad that I clicked can be seen to the right. I wanted to look at deals for a Dodge Charger. That’s what I was promised. That’s not what I got.

Everyone makes mistakes and other than a few hiccups in recent years, Chrysler has done a pretty good job at staying aggressive on social media. This is the type of mistake that can cost money. It’s the type of mistake that can cost customers. There was no easy way for me to get to what I was promised, namely information about deals on Dodge Chargers that were associated with the big Dodge Event.

If you run ads on Facebook, test, check, recheck, test, click through, verify, and then do it all over again. You often get one opportunity to reach a buyer before they end up looking elsewhere. On social media, this is amplified by the medium itself. Test that the links work on mobile devices. Test that the promise (the ad copy) is what’s delivered when they get to the other side of the click. Otherwise, you’re just blowing through cash and customers.

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Article originally posted on socialnewswatch.com.

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Papas 300

There have been valid business reasons to use hashtags for years. Twitter started it off. Pinterest added to it. Google+ mastered it in many ways. Instagram, Tumblr… the list of social sites on which hashtags are relevant is long. Facebook was the last major holdout. Now that they’ve joined the bandwagon, it’s go time.

Mastering the use of hashtags takes practice, testing, experimenting, and more practice. Thankfully, there are few things you can keep in mind that will make the journey much easier. Here are some basic techniques for using hashtags that should help you find your own strategy pretty easily…

 

Send a Message through Emphasis

This is hands-down the easiest and arguably most effective use of hashtags on a regular basis. It’s also, oddly enough, the most misused or underutilized. In the example above, there are no major hashtags that people search for or click through to on a regular basis. They aren’t designed to market anything in particular. They’re meant to make the words themselves stand out in the text and to enhance the message itself through emphasis.

Notice the words that are hashtagged – affordable, beauty, performance, reliability. There aren’t a whole lot of better words to use in a description of a used Chysler 300. It makes the message stand out in the stream and helps to punctuate the overall message of the post itself.

 

Latch on to Trending Topics

This is the most used technique to use with hashtags and is also arguably the least useful, especially for a local business. Trying to “trend surf” can be dangerous as some businesses have found it. It also means trying to stand out in a very large crowd. However, that doesn’t mean they’re useless.

The easiest way to make them effective is to latch onto national campaigns associated with hashtags that are relevant to business. For example, a Toyota dealer would want some posts with the hashtag #Toyotathon when the event comes around. Local trending hashtags can also be useful. For example, #Travelers and #Golf were both trending in Connecticut at the beginning of the Travelers Championship held in Cromwell, CT.

 

Personalized Hashtags

If you can make this one work, you’re a winner. Many big brands fail miserably at this. They can turn into debacles that allow the trolls of the internet to desecrate a brand and their message. However, it’s worth noting as something to explore when you have something really strong to promote.

The essence is this – make and spread a hashtag that is attached to your brand, then ask (hope) people will use it in a positive fashion. No need to go into the gory details here, but this backfires much more often than it works. Still, businesses will continue to try it and occasionally some of them strike gold.

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Hashtags work. They should not be overused. They should not be utilized for spamming. Put in the proper context, they can be great ways to highlight your message and get it exposed to a wider range of potential customers.

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Be Thankful About Real Life on Social Media

Businesses are starting to get it. They once saw social media as a channel like many others through which they could broadcast their message. When that didn’t work, they shifted to using it as a branding tool only. When that wasn’t effective, they started communicating with people. Bingo! Now, more need to take it to the next level.

We see it all the time on some social media pages. Businesses are posting things to Facebook like pictures of happy customers. They’re answering questions and highlighting things happening at their business. The next step is to be thankful.

Social media in general and Facebook in particular is a perfect place to humanize the business. One of the best things a business can do to humanize itself is to be thankful. There are many things that businesses today can focus on through social media, to highlight as a positive thing. It’s customers. It’s good things that happen to the business, the local community, and the people in it. It’s testimonials and reviews.

The key is to make it social. Making it social takes a little work. It’s not about sharing a link to a review, for example, on Facebook. It’s about expressing true gratitude for the review and personalizing it in a way that makes it stand out.

People are much more appreciative of the effort it takes to highlight a personalized response to a review than they are about a review that was a simple click of a button on a link. More importantly, highlighting reviews in this way is much more visible on news feeds. Many of the review sites have been so blasted out onto Facebook and other social media sites that they’re not even eligible for promotion through Facebook ads.

Social media is about reaching people and allowing people to reach you in return. Being thankful, humble, and appreciative of the good things around you and your business is an effective way of amplifying the reach abilities from both directions – you reaching them and them reaching you. It’s what makes social media so important.

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Speaking in an Empty Room

I was consulting with a potential client yesterday and started looking at their Facebook and Twitter pages. Once a day, every day, they would post a question that had very little to do with anything at all. "What was the last movie you watched?"

Once a day, every day, they wouldn't get a response from anyone. It was awkward in a social media way. There was no engagement. The reason was easy to find - their 3000+ Facebook fans had not been engaged with their page for a long time (meaning that nobody was seeing their posts in their news feeds) and their Twitter profile had 40 followers.

"I've heard you say that questions drive engagement," she told me as I started pointing out the challenges. She was correct - I have said that many times before and it's true. The problem is that questions do not work if nobody is listening and they're not the right way to get people to listen.

I don't envy her. She took over a Facebook page that had been getting updated by RSS feeds for over a year and a Twitter account that was autoposted from Facebook. The remaining followers and fans were spam bots. Nobody was listening. It was an empty room.

There's an old saying that says, "fake it 'til you make it" and that applies in this type of situation. There are still people who will visit the profiles because they show up in search and are linked from the website, so one still has to post quality content during the rebuilding period (stage one in our three stage process), but questions aren't the answer (pun intended). At this stage, it's important to show those who do visit the pages that you're posting quality content, but you don't want to highlight the fact that nobody is paying attention at that point.

Statements, facts, pictures, videos, and occasional links work best at this point. Through ads and engagement-driving posts, you'll be able to get your following back up and engaged. Once that happens and you're on to stage two, it's time to start asking questions again. Until then, avoid them.

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No Cats or Dogs

For a few months now, I’ve been discussing the idea that local businesses should never fall into the trap of trying to be funny or interesting through the use of irrelevant pictures and memes. “No cat or dog pictures” has become a mantra of sorts with the concept being that businesses should try to stand out, not fit into the mix on Facebook and other social media sites.

As some have argued, there are definitely exceptions to the rule. One such exception is when the interesting dog or cat picture is relevant to the business or local area. Here’s an example of an acceptable dog picture post on a business Facebook page:

Acceptable Car or Dog Picture

It’s local – this is the mascot for the school in this Honda dealership’s local area. It’s epic – how often do you see a dog that regal? It’s informative – many in the local area may not realize the fact in the description on the post. The results were that this relatively small Facebook page got decent traction on it with 20 likes and a share. It’s not fantastic, but it’s better to have local flair than to be random with funny pictures.

There’s another exception to the idea that local businesses should not post cat and dog pictures that was pointed out to me the other day: veterinarians and pet stores have every right to do it. In the spirit of being thorough, it had to be said.

Social media marketing is not about being popular. It’s not about getting likes. For local businesses, it’s about reaching people in the community with a business message. To do so, it’s important to play the “Facebook algorithm game” to earn the right for posts to be seen. This is one of the reasons that businesses resort to memes and funny pictures, but they don’t have to. They can find plenty of interesting content closer to home that is both relevant and important to their fans.

Stand out. Don’t fit in.

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A few months ago, we confronted one of our dealers that had our website solution about why they were putting a watermark of their logo on irrelevant pictures and posting them to social media. Apparently, their social media vendor had a theory.

It was a process, really, and it went like this:

  1. Find viral images on sites like Reddit, 9Gag, and Buzzfeed.
  2. Slap the dealership’s logo in the bottom right corner.
  3. Get it liked and shared by hundreds of people around the world.
  4. Sell more cars as a result.

The biggest challenge with a strategy like this (and there are many) is that it hurts the brand’s image. Most people on social media have a nice flood of funny and interesting pictures coming through their feeds. The idea that a dealership needs to fit into this is ridiculous. Dealerships have to stand out.

The goal should not be to take an irrelevant picture and get it exposed to tens of thousands of people scattered around the world in hopes that enough of them are locals who can buy a car. The goal is to take truly local, relevant branding messages and get them exposed to thousands of locals only.

Would you rather your brand be associated with an image of a car nicely placed in front of the dealership with a the sign glowing bright on local people’s news feeds, or would you rather have people in Singapore or Tunisia loving a funny image that has made its rounds around the internet?

Social media isn’t like other marketing venues. On search, it doesn’t hurt to have your message reach people who aren’t in your market. On social media, it does. You want to be as localized as possible. You want a bare minimum of 80% of your fans to be within driving distance to the dealership. When you spread out too far, you are no longer able to post high-quality localized messages that the majority of your fans will recognize and care about.

It’s not realistically possible to keep 100% of your fans localized, but you can get close. In the image to the right, you’ll see that this page is small. It had practically zero fans less than two months ago. There are a couple dozen offshore likes; the only way to avoid this completely would be to manually inspect every new like and kick out those who are not helpful to the cause which is a waste of time. If you keep it over 80% localized (and these guys over 90% local) then the out-of-towners won’t do much damage.

Perhaps the biggest reason that dealers and vendors like bulk is that they follow the misconception that you can only reach fans. There has been this confusion that has followed social media sites, particularly Facebook, since they became marketing venues. The thought is that since this page has hundreds of fans, not tens of thousands of fans, they can’t reach enough people. This misconception is completely opposite of reality.

When someone likes, comments, or shares your post, it has the opportunity to be exposed to their friends in their own news feed. When two people in the same circle of friends like, comment, or share a post, it becomes much more likely that their friends will see it. By “much more likely” I don’t mean twice as likely. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the chances increase exponentially, but it’s a dramatic increase.

For example, Bob likes a post on your Facebook page. His friend, Sally, also likes the same post. They each have around 200 Facebook friends and 30 of them are mutuals between them. Their friends have a chance of seeing your post in their news feed, but their mutual fans have a much greater chance. Now, one of their mutual friends likes that post, and the dominoes start falling. The reach potential from Bob’s first like was small. Once Sally liked it, the reach potential increased. When Tom, their mutual friend, also likes the post, now we’re getting into a post with the potential to be seen by hundreds just from the Bob’s like alone. That doesn’t include the other people who are already seeing your posts. For those people, the potential can continue to grow as well.

This localized expansion of exposure is impossible when you have too many fans from outside of the area. Those people outside of the area hurt the potential for locals to see it because they’re less likely to interact with it. This lack of interaction can damage your posts algorithmically. In other words, by having too many distant fans, you hurt the chances of Bob ever seeing the post in the first place, which means Sally would never have seen it, which means Tom would have never seen it, which means those hundreds of locals who might have seen the post never had the opportunity.

It’s a little confusing. That’s why it’s just easier for dealers and vendors to think along the lines of accumulating as many fans as possible regardless of why they liked the page in the first place or where they actually live. Perhaps the easiest way to understand it is to see the actual reach of the page example above.

These numbers are decent for a page that was reaching nobody less than two months ago. They’re not fantastic; localized reach should be sustainable at five-digits with spikes in the six-digit range at times depending on the area targeted. Still, it’s a good illustration that a properly managed page with hundreds of local fans can still reach thousands of of people within driving distance to the dealership.

The bottom line is this: social media strategies in general and Facebook strategies in particular fall victim to misconceptions about fans and reach. You want to reach locals. You want to post content that is relevant. You want to brand the right way. You don’t need to employ tricks or schemes to become the most popular kid in school. You only need to employ sound strategies to reach potential consumers who can actually make a difference to your bottom line.

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Article originally appeared on AutomotiveSocialMedia.com.

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Some infographics are long for the sake of being long. They take up way too much space to make very few points or to present data in ways that simply don’t make sense from an graphic perspective. Then, there are those infographics that are long for a valid reason. This is one of those.

Social media is ever changing. In many ways, this is a good thing. Innovations come through change and the major social networks are all much better than they were just a couple of years ago. Other changes are annoying, especially for businesses that rely on their social media presence as a venue to drive engagement, communication, and branding. Having the appropriate matching of the brand look and feel is important. Unfortunately, just when you have the right graphics in the right places, they go and make changes to the size and location of these graphics.

It’s a drag. Thankfully, this infographic from Tent Social is up to date… as of right now. There’s no telling when Facebook will decide to make their cover images larger or when LinkedIn will change the dimensions of its logo space, but for now, here’s a good reference for everything from image sizes to post lengths.

Measurements” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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When I was asked last year to develop a social media marketing service, the first question they asked was whether I already had software in mind or if it needed to be built. I told them that the software had already been developed and it was free. This didn't go over well at first; they’d always used premium social media software in the past.

“How good could it be if it’s free?” they asked.

I told them that it’s not only free, but it was also the best software available. I took the computer, typed in f-a-c-e-b-o-o-k-dot-c-o-m, and proceeded to explain why it wasn’t just about me being cheap, but that it’s also better to post to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest from facebook.com, twitter.com, plus.google.com, and pinterest.com.

Here’s why:

 

You Don’t Need a Shell on Top

With search engine marketing, there’s an argument that can be made that pulling in third-party data is a benefit. The sheer amounts of data available through the search engines and from outside sources makes it conceivable that there are benefits to using software to manage campaigns, track keywords (particularly for SEO reasons), and monitor results. Then again, the Google Adwords UI has become pretty darn slick in recent months, so I don’t think I’d even use software for that.

At least it’s debatable with search and other marketing arenas. On social, there’s simply no debate necessary. There is no software out there that makes posting, monitoring, and reporting results easier than the actual websites and mobile apps themselves. Are there benefits? Sure. There are also major drawbacks and too much room for error that makes them worthless.

A couple of years ago, they were effective because Facebook and Twitter hadn’t matured. Today, they’re doing just fine handling their own data, controlling their own posts, and making it easier to monitor.

It almost sorta kinda makes sense with a taco.

Don’t get me wrong. I use tools. I love Buffer for scheduling posts on Twitter to keep them spread out and on Facebook when I won’t be available to post myself. I like the multiple views available through software like Hootsuite. However, there are too many high-dollar shells being put on top of the interfaces that do nothing more than make the reports look pretty.

What’s worse is that many of them attempt to prove their value by offering features such as content suggestions and automated posting. Scheduling and automation are two different things and there’s simply no need to take content suggestions from software (more on that later).

 

Social Plugins Hurt Websites

This one might make some software companies really upset with me, but it has to be said. You should never, ever, ever, ever, ever add plugins or wigdets to your website without two things: a really good reason and the backing of a major software company. Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – their plugins and widgets aren’t perfect, but at least they’re safe. Everything else – dump them.

The native widgets are all you need. It always amazes me when I see Facebook plugins, for example, that weren’t built by Facebook. There was a rise in popularity of the little ribbon at the bottom of pages for a while. Thankfully, most realized that they slow the page load times down and can cause errors on certain browsers. They also realized that they didn’t do anything useful other than give the marketing manager at the company something to show the boss and put unearned cash into the pockets of the company that sold it to them.

They don’t work. They aren’t effective. They do much more harm than good. Unfortunately, those are the best-case scenarios. In some cases, they can actually do true harm to a site as can be seen in the image to the right.

There’s a reason that social media companies develop software. It’s less expensive for them to support software than to employ the people necessary to make social media actually work for their clients. It’s sexy because it’s visual, tangible, and seems to be sophisticated. In other marketing arenas, software is often all that’s needed. In social media, it does nothing other than make people feel good.

 

Social Media is Creative. Software is Not.

As I hinted at before, when software is used to find content or determine what to post, the battle is already lost.

I’d put my team of specialists up against IBM’s Watson if it did social media management. Until a piece of software is able to craft a Facebook post or Tweet that has the ability to reach the minds of the audience rather than just reaching their feeds for the sake of reaching their feeds, software is not the solution for this.

Some would argue that it saves time from having to look for content to post. I would argue that the technology to do that has been around for a while. It’s called Google. There’s also RSS feed readers (NOT to post automatically, of course) that gives any industry plenty of content in just the same manner as the social software provides. This isn’t new technology.

The biggest challenge with this is that it takes the human eye out of the equation in many circumstances. Software, for all the good that it can do, does tend to make us lazy. It’s laziness that turns good pages mediocre. Manual vetting of content and inspiration that only comes to humans can turn a good page into a fantastic one.

“But, it saves time!”

That’s what some will say. I would argue that the five minutes it saves a day isn’t worth being half as effective.

 

Dashboards are Completely Overrated

The data is there. Facebook Insights aren’t perfect, but they present the data in an acceptable manner. Dashboards definitely do make things prettier. They also speed up the reporting process for marketing companies. However, they don’t understand nuance.

I’ve seen both sides. I’ve seen gorgeous automated reports and dashboards that didn’t tell the whole picture and I’ve seen manually-created reports and native dashboards that deliver the real results. A dashboard doesn’t know that the picture of a local attraction that received 50 likes, 15 shares, and 10 comments is less successful of a post than an inventory item that received 20 likes, 10 shares, and 5 comments, particularly if that inventory item was sold the day after it was posted.

The information provided by the social sites themselves manually gathered and analyzed by humans gives a much more accurate picture of the effectiveness of a campaign than any dashboard or report. It doesn't matter how pretty the graphs are. It’s still only numbers being provided in a different format. Reports need to say more than just the numbers. They need to demonstrate success.

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Tomorrow's Buyers

A father and son walked onto a car lot and started looking around. As the salesperson approached, the son, 14- or 15-years old, was clearly directing his father towards a particular new vehicle. They met the salesperson in front of a Chevy Cruze and told her that they wanted to take it for a test drive.

As car deals go, this one was a pretty easy one. The negotiations were tough – they were informed buyers who paid well under MSRP after discounts and rebates on a 2013 with 2014 models rolling out – but otherwise it was pretty quick. They knew what they wanted and didn’t need much convincing that it was the right car for them.

When asked what helped them make their decision, the duo surprised their salesperson. “I’ve been following the car for a while on Facebook,” the son said.

She was perpexed. “Following the car?” she asked.

Apparently, the young man had been “following” several cars on social media for a couple of months. He told her something that shook her up a bit, which prompted her to tell her general manager, which prompted him to contact me. The young man told her, “My generation doesn’t trust the ‘expert reviews’ as much as we trust each other. We trust other people. The Cruze has been getting loved on by people all over Facebook and Twitter, much more than anything else in my price range.”

My price range,” his father corrected.

This was the younger buyer’s car, at least it was going to be if he got a scholarship when he graduated from high school. His father would be driving it until then but wanted his son’s input since it would be his (hopefully) in a few years.

This story sparked my inquiry into my 14-year-old’s social media activity. As a conscientious and terrified father, I keep tabs on my children’s internet activity, but I’d never done a deep dive into her activities. I was looking for boys contacting her, of course, but now I had a reason to ask her some questions. What she told me was somewhat shocking (a hard thing to admit considering the amount of time I spend researching social media).

On Instagram, she had friends at her junior high with tens of thousands of followers. Everything they posted would get hundreds of likes. On Facebook, it was much of the same. The funny part was that they weren’t just posting updates about Lady Gaga or nail polish. I saw posts about Chick-fil-A,  the Nissan Leaf (one of my daughter’s friend’s dream car), Qantas Airlines (they’re already picking airlines?), and even a nice debate about which tablets are best to take on vacation when stuck with the parents for the summer trip.

Today’s youths, tomorrow’s buyers, are turning to social media to learn more about brands than any other medium. They aren’t researching cars on Edmunds or KBB. They’re checking them out on YouTube, tracking them on Facebook, and following them on Twitter. They’re savvy enough to find what others are saying about them.

This is all fine and dandy for the future, but what about today? Then, my daughter pointed something out. Many major decisions are made by the family rather than just the parents. It’s more common today than ever before. Teen children are often major influencers when it comes to buying decisions.

Does this mean that businesses should turn their social media attention to be more like Justin Bieber or The Hunger Games? Of course not. Still, it’s important to know that it’s not just the direct buyers that are watching businesses on social media. It’s also important to note that tomorrow’s buyers are more connected through social media than today. This means that every day, as kids enter the buying market, more consumers are influenced by social media. It’s an important part of marketing today. It’s growing to become even more important over time. In the future, one might make the connection that social media could be the most influential component of a buying decision. That may be hard to imagine today, but the trends are clear.

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Tomorrow’s Buyers” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Social Media Doesn’t Take Weekends Off

I was having a casual conversation with a counterpart at a different automotive social media company yesterday when he asked, “Why do you guys monitor on the weekends? The dealer doesn’t care and as long as we reply on Monday, they’ll be fine.”

The discussion that ensued was long and nearly got heated. Thankfully, cooler minds prevailed and I let him go about his business believing that 5-day/week social media was acceptable for his clients.

It’s not.

Despite the fact that you definitely do have more time on social media to reply than on something like chat or even phone, it’s unacceptable to let it linger for too long. The opportunities for sales are missed when days pass. The opportunity to make an upset customer happy can be missed in minutes sometimes. Take a look at this exchange:

The customer replied to a post on the dealer’s Facebook page at 8:26 on Sunday. The reply came in 5 minutes later, personalized and willing to make things right. The customer replied 5 minutes later. Then, the person who could make things happen, in this case the service manager, was able to call the customer on Monday and turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. This may not have been possible had they waited to make first contact the next morning rather than while the customer was still online.

This is just a single example, and it’s the reason that we’re adamant about monitoring clients’ pages seven days per week. The weekends are when the majority of potential social media interactions occur. To take the weekends off is a poor practice, especially considering the ease in staying connected with smartphones.

Obviously everyone needs a break. We don’t monitor on the seven major US holidays (despite my objections to that, the company I work for has a bigger heart than me), but otherwise it’s important for dealers to stay on top of what people are saying to them every day of the week. Hook up your smartphone and make it happen or find someone who can do it all for you.

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Are your posts fresh or recycled

Be sure to check out the Internet Sales 20 Group in November to learn more about this topic...

Look, I get it. I understand that it’s hard for vendors and OEMs to produce a social media solution for their dealers that scales properly while still bringing in good content. I do not, however, understand the concept of not even trying to mix things up. There’s an easy road and a hard road for automotive social media, but there’s also the right road, the one that scales properly while still maintaining individuality and creativity at the core of the service.

I know this for a fact. I’ve developed it.

It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard, either. It took some time, plenty of planning, a ton of testing, and an unyielding principle to do for clients what I would want done if I were at a dealership, but the results have been astounding (beyond my own expectations) and the effort is exactly as it should be – enough to make a strategy that helps dealers sell more cars but not so much that it become cost prohibitive. Every dealer and vendor should examine what they’re doing in social media and decide whether or not it’s worth risking your dealership’s reputation by reposting content from someone else.

Keep in mind, sharing is perfectly acceptable. If you see something on a different Facebook page that your audience will enjoy, share it! Don’t do it too often – it’s not algorithmically viable to have shared content filling your page – but it’s better than grabbing it and reposting it. What’s worse is to grab it and repost it on a bunch of other dealers’ pages as well.

I first noticed this during the Toyota Corolla launch a couple of weeks ago. We posted an image of the new Corolla and it did very well for our client. Minutes later, it was posted again. And again. And again. There’s no telling how many Toyota dealers had the same content posted almost simultaneously, but it wasn’t a case of imitation being the best for of flattery. It was ridiculous, but I let it go. Maybe someone was in a hurry. Maybe our post was just that compelling and needed to be shared. I didn’t think it was a standard practice, but now I know differently.

You deserve better. Your content should be unique regardless of how widespread your marketing company is. Again, and I cannot stress this enough, it’s scalable and extremely effective to post 100% unique content on Facebook for hundreds, even thousands of clients. It’s not acceptable to take shortcuts for the sake of a vendor’s bottom line. It shouldn’t be this way. There’s way too much potential with social media done the right way to allow laziness or cost savings to supersede a client’s needs.

That’s it. Sorry for the rant. This stuff gets me riled up.

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Bonsai Tree

There’s a challenge associated with Facebook advertising that isn’t as important when it comes to Google Adwords or similar advertising platforms. With Adwords, as long as your ads match well with the page that you’re advertising, you can maintain a high quality score and keep your ads working well. On Facebook, there is a much tougher audience than the Google algorithm that you have to win over. With Facebook, your ads fall under the scrutiny of the audience and if they don’t like what you’re advertising, they can hurt your current and future exposure.

When you advertise on Facebook, your posts get much more visibility. If the content that you’re advertising gets a good amount of negative sentiment in the form of reports and hides, it isn’t just the post itself that gets hurt. Your future posts will feel the wrath of the algorithmic damage that you do. It isn’t just negative sentiment that hurts, either. If your post is viewed by many people in their news feed and gets ignored, that too is damaging. When people see your post and don’t engage with it, Facebook’s algorithm recognizes that and will be less likely to present future posts to them.

Thankfully, the opposite is true as well. Facebook ads can be used to help future standard posts find the light of day by accumulating a high percentage of positive engagement. In the balance between conversational and conversion posts, focusing some ad dollars on the former can help the latter appear more prominently in news feeds. One of the easiest ways to do this is to highlight what the company is already doing in the real world – helping in the community.

“It’s important to keep a mix of community posts, conversation posts, and business-relevant posts,” said Louie Baur, social media manager for KPA. “The only thing worse than fan fatigue is spam.”

At first glance, the image above would appear to belong to a horticulture page or perhaps an arboretum. It’s a bonsai plant, something that you don’t see every day on Facebook but interesting enough nonetheless. When people see it in their news feed, there’s a good chance they’ll look at the description to see what the post is all about. That’s when it hits them. This is a post by a car dealer. They are supporting an event in the local community by posting it on their Facebook page. They even sponsored the post.

This does a few things. First, it does the most obvious thing – helps to promote a worthwhile community event. This is the most important thing it does and as long as the intentions are sincere, the benefits will be real. Second, it gives a piece of content that will resonate with a different set of people than standard content posted to the page. They are a car dealership and they post a lot of information about cars, of course. Mixing in a picture of a bonsai and connecting that to the community and the dealership itself is a strong maneuver from a strategic perspective.

Finally, it is a strong aid for future posts. Fans will interact. The beneficiary, in this case a local arboretum, will likely interact. As people like, comment on, and share the content, more local people will see it. This is where the magic can happen. The combination of strong organic interaction, paid views, and viral views can combine for a very powerful little campaign.

In this case, the total cost  of the campaign will be $5. The value of the thousands of views of the message and branding (for both the beneficiary and the business itself) will be priceless.

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Bill The Butcher

I’m always hesitant to talk to people about the wonders of Facebook advertising. It’s the most cost-effective way to get the word out to the right people. The targeting capabilities make Google envious and the effectiveness, when done right, is nothing short of a work of art for driving business.

The hesitation comes with the major caveat that surrounds Facebook advertising. It can be both a wonderful thing and a terrible thing because, unlike Adwords or other forms of digital advertising, you can actually do harm to your page and your future posts.

Facebook is governed by one of the most fickle algorithms ever created. It works in real time and has a long memory, making it like walking on eggshells when trying to promote a business. There are strategies for content posting that are specifically designed to play up to the algorithm just as there are strategies for playing properly with search algorithms. The difference is that there’s no attachment between paid and organic in search while paid and organic promoted posts on Facebook are connected at the hip.

Here is an example of the “Boost” options on a Facebook page that we manage for a client. It has around 1500 fans and thankfully we were able to build it nearly from scratch – they had 26 fans when we took the page over 4 months ago.

The numbers represented here show the estimated reach for the different numerical values available to be spent. These are stereotypical numbers of a well-managed page of this size with a history of posting strong content. It’s lower than what a fresh page can expect; Facebook gives first-time advertisers a wide range of people who can like their posts before reducing it down based upon successes and failures. The reduction is inevitable because as people see posts in their news feeds and do not interact with them, they become less likely to see the next post you put up. Unless you’re posting Shakespeare-quality unique content that is driving your audience to become mad fans, you will certainly see a major dip in reach potential.

The numbers go up and down, but as long as you can keep them reaching the total number of fans you have on the page with the lowest denomination of spend, you’re in a good place in the eyes of the Facebook algorithm.

Now, here’s an example of a different page. Same industry. More fans. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have nearly the reach potential.

Sometime in the past, they burned enough people who saw their posts that they’re having challenges reaching them a second time. It could have just been poor content, but a scan of the page doesn’t lend to this theory.

The only other explanation is that they’ve used Facebook ads in the past and butchered them. They posted content that was deemed spammy and then promoted it to a ton of people.

It would be like picking up a bullhorn and screaming fowl language at people as they walked by the store.

The damage is done. It’s reversible, but we have a pretty long road ahead with this much damage to correct. If the offending post or posts was so bad that a lot of people reported or made their posts hidden, it might turn out to be a better idea to start over from scratch.

Facebook is an extremely powerful advertising tool, but there are right ways and wrong ways to harness that power. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use it for business-relevant posts. It just means that you cannot use it to spam the wrong messages. Before posting or promoting anything, ask yourself if you would want to see something like it on your news feed if it was from a different industry. In other words, if you run a car dealership, before posting this week’s newspaper ad and promoting it to 50,000 people, ask yourself if you would enjoy seeing a newspaper ad selling furniture popping up in your news feed between posts of little Timmy sliding into third base and your hilarious co-worker’s hilarious rant of the day.

Bill the Butcher was one of the greatest characters in movie history, but Bob the Butcher (you know, your Facebook ad guy) isn’t going to win you an Oscar for best Facebook post if he’s promoting content that doesn’t belong on Facebook.

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Never Upload Pins to Pinterest. Ever.

Pinterest Board

Yesterday, I found myself utterly mortified. I caught a Pinterest page that my team was managing uploading images to Pinterest. After several deep breaths, I talked to my teammate and corrected this for the future.

Pinterest has an image upload feature. I wish they didn’t. There’s absolutely no reason to pin an image directly to Pinterest. I won’t even use the mobile app for this reason.

As a traffic-driving social force, Pinterest is close to the top. As a social signal for search engines, it’s an important component. When you upload an image directly to Pinterest, you lose both opportunities. It’s not like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Tumblr where direct uploads have benefits over linked posts. There’s zero difference between uploading directly to Pinterest or pinning an image from another site other than the loss of the two benefits the social network offers.

If you have an image that you want to Pin, put it somewhere else first. Post it to your blog. Put it on Tumblr, Upload it to Google+. Do something, anything other than uploading it to Pinterest itself. It’s an extra few seconds of work but yields an actual benefit other than simple exposure of that great image of the Ferrari you saw at dinner last night. When you pin from a different source, you’re getting the full value from Pinterest.

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It Takes a Village

This is the first (and most likely last) time that I will use a Hillary Clinton book title as the concept for a blog post. I didn't read the book, but the concept is definitely applicable in social media.

I was speaking to a potential client yesterday who was telling me some of their challenges with social media. The main challenge they were having was in coming up with interesting content to post that was associated with business. As a car dealer, they had plenty of pictures of cars to post, but they weren't very active in the local community and the person in charge of social media didn't consider herself to be creative.

"Does anyone at the dealership do anything interesting?" It was a simple question that sparked a 2 minute conversation that turned into an hour-long brainstorming session. At the end, we came to the conclusion that she worked at the most interesting dealership in the world and didn't know it.

The parts manage was in a country band that played at the local steak house saloon on Saturday nights. They had a customer that came in 5-days a week to get what he considered to be the best coffee in town with their fancy cappuccino machine in the service waiting area. A sales person was a little league baseball coach that recruited the top talent in town to take to tournaments across the country.

Last night, she did some further research and found even more interesting things. The land on which the dealership was built turned out to have a rich and somewhat controversial history. One of the secretaries had a son who was likely going to he starting for the state university basketball team the following year. Another sales person had a photography business on the side where people posed in or around classic cars.

Everyone gets into a rut. We try our best to be creative and to come up with interesting things to post to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google+, but sometimes it seems that you're posting the same things over and over again. Finding images is easy. Unfortunately, social media needs to be richer, more robust. It's not just about pieces of content. It's about stories that affect the local area and the people that make up your business, customer base, and community.

You don't have to live on social media island. There are people around you who can inspire you, spark an idea, or become the subject of content that can all be tied back to the business itself. The difference between being isolated on social media and having a flood of potential content is often about getting up from your desk and talking to people. In essence, the key to successful social media is often as simple as being social in the real world and applying it to your business presence.

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Audience

When it comes to social media advice, the majority of the common catch phrases are there for a reason. Tips like “be engaging” and “communicate, don’t broadcast” are sound pieces of advice despite the annoying frequency that they’re used by gurus. There’s one common tip that is more than just annoying. In many ways, it’s actually wrong.

“Know your audience” is a mantra, a driving force behind many blog posts and help videos. For those building blogs or social networks for the sake of having a nice hobby or making money through traffic-based advertising, it’s good advice. For businesses using a blog and social networks to increase sales of their products or services, it’s the type of advice that can send people in the wrong direction. Unless you’re making money directly from your blog, you shouldn’t attempt to know your audience.

Instead, you need to know your customers and potential customers. The current audience is irrelevant.

Catering content to fit in with the current audience will appease them. It will make them more likely to share your content. It will get more interactions and engagement. These are all good things. However, catering content to fit in with them does not help grow your business. Sure, some of the people in your audience might be current or future customers, but unless they’re the majority, the opinions of your audience don’t really matter.

This all stems from a conversation I had yesterday with a client. She has an automotive blog that has accumulated a nice following because of the content that she was posting. It was fun content that included memes of people parking like idiots, stunts, and beautiful pictures of hot rods. The audience loved it. The problem is that the audience wasn’t buying cars from her. They were spread across the world. There was nothing local and only an occasional post about the brand itself.

If you’re blogging for SEO reasons only, then this isn’t a bad idea. The problem is that having one domain linking to your single website isn’t going to give you much SEO juice. The effort is wasted. Your company blog should not be used for SEO reasons to drive links to your website because if you only have one website and one blog linking to it constantly, the effects are minimal.

Your blog should be geared towards building amazing content that your customers and potential customers can enjoy. It should be relevant to them and them alone. It’s nice to reach thousands of people with your general interest blog posts, but it doesn’t drive business. You should be focusing on getting content up that 100 local potential customers will find interesting rather than 10,000 people spread across the world. That general content might draw more overall traffic, but it’s not driving business-relevant traffic. More importantly, it’s not making an impact on the locals that actually are visiting your blog, at least not as much as if you were posting content that they could associate with because of the local nature of it.

Having a large audience is a blessing, but having a good localized audience can help your brand and increase business. That should be your focus.

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